Tag Archives: Victoria

Paediatric Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and young adults

Dr John Campbell first alerted us to this new, serious condition in children back in early May, and I mentioned it in this post. The condition was named ‘Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome’ and parents were reassured that it was very ‘rare’. You can find Dr John’s latest video on the syndrome here.

It terms of total numbers, Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome is still rare, but the numbers are growing, and we still don’t know much about it. What we do know, however, is rather scary because it upends the initial advice that children are miraculously ‘safe’ from Covid-19.

The following video explains these concerns very well:

I’ve cherry picked some important bits from the video:

0:40 ‘This virus has deceived us every step of the way. We have been behind this virus from the very beginning. And it still surprises us.’ [Andrew Cuomo, Mayor of New York].

1:10 [Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome] ‘… shares symptoms with the rare, potentially life-threatening blood condition, Kawasaki disease which can cause toxic shock.’

1:42 ‘There are now more than 130 cases recorded in the US. Three children have died.’

2:19 Image of the rash and swollen extremities of a child with Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome:

2:34 Graphic showing the most common symptoms to look out for in your child:

4:00 ‘We now know both that they [children] can get the disease [Covid-19] without symptoms, and they can become seriously ill from the disease.’ [Dr Lawrence Kleinman, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA]

5:28 [These children have] ‘…no pre-existing conditions’.

When asked whether parents should be worried, Dr Kleinman was diplomatic, but suggested that parents should be ‘aware’ and ‘concerned’:

5:50 [Parents] ‘…and focus on the things they are able to do to protect their children.’

These things include [5:54]:

  • ‘…keeping them [children] away from close contact with others with whom they’re not living,
  • …wearing masks, and when out being around people who are wearing masks,
  • …washing hands,
  • and keeping surfaces clean, so-called ‘high contact surfaces’ like door knobs, counters, things like that where people touch a lot.’

As far as I can see, none of those suggestions is compatible with sending kids back to school.

  • When class sizes can be up to 30 children, social distancing is next to impossible.
  • When kids play, they come into close contact with each other. That’s why head lice can spread so rapidly through the population of a school.
  • Here in Australia, next to no one wears a mask, least of all our children.
  • In poorer schools, there may be taps for washing hands, but there is often no soap. Or the soap runs out in the morning and isn’t replaced until the cleaners come in after school. And that’s a best case scenario.
  • As for keeping close contact surfaces clean…kids touch everything, multiple times a day. Every time they go from one class to the next, in the toilet blocks, in the canteen… Keeping surfaces virus free is a nice concept, but that’s all it is. In practical terms, it cannot be done.

Taking the realities into consideration, Dr Kleinman is actually saying – do NOT send your children back to school. At least until we know more.

6:34 ‘…but we don’t know what the future holds. Every day we learn what we didn’t know the day before.’

And that seems to be the elephant in the Covid-19 room. This virus is so new, we don’t even know what it is that we don’t know. That’s why even the best advice can be outdated mere days after it’s been given.

In the beginning, we were told that children either didn’t get Covid-19 or only contracted a very mild disease. We were also told that ‘there was no evidence’ that children spread the virus [hence schools were ‘safe’].

We now know that children can get Covid-19, and they can get it without symptoms. That means they can spread it to other children and other members of their families. We are also learning that Covid-19 may trigger a delayed reaction in [some] children whereby their immune systems go haywire.

What we don’t know is why these children have this delayed reaction.

Is the connection to Covid-19 simply a coincidence?

Or are these children at special risk somehow?

And if they are, what is that special risk?

Will it strike more children as the pandemic continues?

To me, all these unknowns lead to just one question: is this a risk we really want to take with our children?

And this brings me to a special plea to the Premier of my state, Daniel Andrews:

Please, change your mind and keep schools closed until the start of Term 3.

It’s not that far off, but the delay could end up saving the lives of our children. Please don’t let the political animals in Canberra railroad you into going against your gut instincts. You have been right all along.

Sending kids back to school before we know how serious this Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome is, and how it links to Covid-19 is a massive risk. What are the benefits other than freeing parents up to work ‘for the economy’?

Most rational people in Victoria agree with your cautious approach. Don’t stop now. Please.

Meeks
Warrandyte, VIC


Covid-19 Dr John Campbell update

The first frame of Dr John’s video is a photo of a bus in Sweden. It’s chock-a-block full, with everyone jammed up against everyone else. And no face masks either. Apparently the messaging about the virus is…laidback.

Bizarre and rather frightening. 😦

By contrast, I found the news from my state, Victoria, very heartening. It comes in a video from an Australian nurse that Dr John included in its entirety. The nurse is here in Melbourne, and she began with the news that our Premier, Daniel Andrews, is putting his foot down. Can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

You can also find the latest news about Victorian restrictions on the VicEmergency app. The app provides real time info on all threats from bushfires to storms etc. The virus info is under ‘Warnings’. If you don’t have the app. you can download it for free from the Google Playstore. Oh, and the Australian video is spliced in at around minute 11:45 of Dr John’s update:

The Offspring and I are well. In fact, we’ve been eating very well because of the need not to waste anything! The Offspring is making fruit deserts, and I’m making ‘No Knead Bread’ to reduce our dependence on outside sources. Friends and family seem to be doing much the same so I’m sure we’ll come out of this okay. I do fear for those who aren’t taking the threat seriously though. All I can say is #StayHome .

I hope all my online friends are safe and well. That means you. -hugs-

Meeks

 


Fireworks 2019 – let’s call this spade a bloody shovel

Photo of evacuees on the beach at Bateman’s Bay, from the Twitter account of Alistair Prior.

This is the beach at Malacoota, on the Victoria side of the border. Photo taken from the Twitter account of Bluesfestblues.

This is, or was, the historic township of Cobargo, NSW. Three people are unaccounted for. Photo taken from the Twitter account of Siobhan Heanue.

Despite being ringed by fire, despite whole communities huddled on beaches watching their towns burn, despite the growing death toll due to these unprecedented fires…the Sydney Fireworks will go ahead.

What are we celebrating, exactly?

Both Gladys Berejiklian [Premier of NSW] and Clover Moore [Major of Sydney] have made glib remarks about ‘community’, and staging the fireworks for the community.

But which community? The ones with no homes to return to? The ones who’ve lost loved ones to these fires? The ones watching their towns burn even as I write these words?

Those communities don’t have tv’s to watch, but even if they did, do we honestly think they’ll enjoy watching pretty fireworks when their own skies are red with flame and ash?

Do we really think the fireworks will make the victims feel better?

Ah, but Clover Moore says she hopes the fireworks will make people donate to the victims…

Does she really think Australians are that callous, that selfish, that uncaring?

We didn’t need fireworks to donate after Black Saturday. We gave and we gave and we gave. We gave until it hurt because we all knew someone who knew someone who died in the fires, or lost everything. So much less than 6 degrees of separation.

We gave out of shock, out of survivor guilt, out of a genuine desire to help.

But it was more than that. We gave because it was the only way we could show our solidarity, our respect.

We gave as a way to mourn.

It was Australia and Australians at their very best.

No, the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney have nothing to do with community, or caring. They’re all about the tourist dollar, and as such, they are obscene.

We are better than this.

I won’t be watching any fireworks, anywhere in Australia, because we are still burning. Every state, including my own. And things are likely to get worse as the fire season progresses.

There is nothing to celebrate this year. Not a single, bloody thing.

Meeks


A Bushfire A.B.C

I wasn’t going to write a bushfire post this year [2019] because I thought there was no need, not with the devastating fires in NSW and QLD to focus everyone’s thoughts. But I’ve just been on Twitter and seen some of the misconceptions about bushfires.

So…here are some basics:

Fire needs just two things to burn: fuel and oxygen. However the size of that fire depends on many things:

  • Dry fuel – makes a fire burn harder and faster. Fuel is made of up dry grass, leaves, small twigs and fallen branches that build up on the ground over time.
  • Low humidity – i.e. moisture in the air and soil – makes a fire burn harder and faster.
  • Strong winds – provide the oxygen to make a fire burn harder and faster. They also transport embers ahead of the main fire.
  • Embers – land on dry fuel and start spot fires.
  • Spot fires act like pre-ignition for the main fire.

So far, these conditions could apply to any fire, in any country of the world. In Australia though, things are a little different. As well as all of the above, we also have to contend with native vegetation that evolved with fire. Some native plants developed ways to keep the species going after a fire. In fact, the seeds of many of our natives need fire to germinate.

In a nutshell, most Australian natives evolved to burn. This includes gum trees [eucalypts].

  • Gum leaves contain eucalyptus oils.
  • When these oils heat up enough, they turn into a volatile gas.
  • Add a spark and this gas goes ‘boom’. It’s an accelerant – like throwing petrol onto a camp fire.
  • Lightning strikes from ‘dry storms’ provide the spark that starts hundreds of fires every year.

So let’s look at a couple of what-ifs. Let’s say a lightning strike starts a fire. If the humidity is high and the fuel is wet – e.g. winter – the fire doesn’t go very far.

But this is what happens in summer:

  • Lightning [or human stupidity via an angle grinder creating a spark, an over-heated car starting to burn, a camp-fire left unattended, blah blah blah] starts a fire in grassland.
  • The grass fire spreads into scrub land.
  • The scrub land fire spreads into native forest.
  • The scrub at the base of the gum trees burns hotter and hotter.
  • The eucalyptus oil in the gum leaves heats up.
  • The volatile oil in the gum leaves becomes a gas and suddenly the whole tree is on fire.
  • As more and more trees burn, and the wind pushes the embers and superheated air ahead of it, the conditions for a ‘crown fire’ emerge.

A crown fire is when the fire jumps from tree top to tree top. This is a fire that nothing can stop – no amount of water bombers, no amount of fire fighters, no amount of chemical retardants. In fact, water bombers can’t even get near this kind of fire because it creates its own weather, crazy weather that makes flying virtually impossible.

In 2009, south eastern Australia was in the grip of the Millenium drought and an El Nino weather event. For those who don’t know, during an El Nino period, south eastern Australia goes through an extended ‘dry’ spell with much less rain than normal.

In February 2009, an extended heatwave of 40+ degree temperatures, extremely low humidity, high fuel loads and a ferocious north wind [bringing even more heat from the Centre] combined to create Black Saturday, the worst bushfire event in modern Australian history. 173 people died.

Now, ten short years later, NSW is likely to have another perfect storm of fire conditions…tomorrow…at the very beginning of summer…with the worst of the fire season still to come.

I’ll be honest, I’m scared. Conditions here in Victoria are cool and wet, for now, but the worst is yet to come. How will Warrandyte fare once the grass browns off and the damp fuel load turns into dry kindling? And even if we squeak through this fire season, what about next year and the one after that?

Some years ago I attend a Climate Change rally in Melbourne, and one of the speakers [from the CFA*] said something I’ll never forget. He said words to the effect that there are no climate change deniers at the end of a fire hose.

Climate Change is not causing bushfires, it’s making them bigger and more frequent. Exactly as the climate scientists predict.

Climate Change is also extending the length of the fire season. When I was a kid, January and February were the bad months. In years to come, fire season may extend from the beginning of Spring [September] through to the end of Autumn [May].

Three people have died in NSW already. How many more have to die before we stop ‘praying’ and start doing something useful?

I hope with all my heart that the legacy of Black Saturday means that Victorians remember how helpless we all felt, and act accordingly. We’ve been there. We know. The only thing we can control, even a little, is the fuel load. Reducing the fuel load won’t stop a fire from starting, and it won’t stop a fire from spreading, but it may reduce the severity of that fire by stopping it from becoming a crown fire. Harm reduction. The life it saves could be your own.

And Warrandyte? If you haven’t cleared your block yet, what the effing hell are you waiting for? NSW and QLD may be the canaries in the coal mine this year, but make no mistake, we’re in that bloody coal mine too.

To EllaD and the GO in Taylors Arms – stay safe.

Meeks

*CFA – Country Fire Authority, the volunteer fire fighting organisation in Victoria.

 

 


How to save $$ in Victoria [Australia]

This post is for Victorians on a tight budget – i.e. people on Newstart, the Age Pension, Disability Pension or young people working in the GIG economy – and concerns energy bills such as gas and electricity.

The first, critical step to saving on your energy bills is to understand that utility companies bank on us being too busy to go out and actively look for better deals. The new initiative by the Victorian government only means that energy retailers have to inform you of their best deals. But those best deals could still be very expensive when compared to the rest of the marketplace.

To give you an example, I changed my gas supplier about a year and a half ago. At the time, my new gas supplier offered the best deal according to the Victorian government’s own comparison website:

https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au

This morning, when I did a fresh comparison, my existing gas supplier was close to the bottom of the list, and their best deal was over $400 more expensive [per year] than the new ‘best deal’. As a result, I got on the phone [contact details supplied by the government website], made sure the quote was still accurate and…signed up:

When AGL’s best is no longer the best, I’ll move my gas account again.

Gamers would recognize this as ‘churn’. The term refers to how gamers move from one ISP to another to get the best deal. I don’t ‘churn’ often, but since I became an age pensioner, I’ve learned that loyalty simply doesn’t pay. These days I ‘churn’ my gas, electricity and comms suppliers on a regular basis.

So what’s involved in comparing prices?

Once you land on the government’s comparison website, you’ll be asked a series of questions about how you use your gas [or electricity]. It pays to make your answers as accurate as possible so dig out your most recent bill and keep it handy. After you’ve completed all the relevant questions, the website will do some kind of general comparison and present you with a list of the best matches for your circumstances.

Gas pricing is a mess with about five different rates in both the ‘peak’ and ‘off peak’ categories, but don’t let it scare you. One easy thing to compare is the daily supply charge. Essentially this is the amount you pay for the privilege of having a gas connection. In other words, even if you don’t turn the gas on at all, you’ll still be charged that daily supply charge.

All retailers charge you for supply, but the amount varies. AGL’s daily supply charge is 62 cents. Another retailer I looked at [not one of the most expensive ones] was charging 83 cents. Assuming the rates don’t change for 365 days, that’s $226 vs $303 per year [or a saving of $77 per year].

When the cost of living means you have to think twice about buying that latte, a saving of $77 is nothing to be sneezed at. And when you add that small saving to the actual cost of using the energy, the savings really do add up.

So please, bookmark that government comparison website and check it out, at least once a year. Doing your homework and making a change will probably take an hour, all up, but the way I see it, I’ve just earned over $400 for that hour. Not a bad hourly rate, don’t you think?

And finally a word about keeping all your eggs in one basket. Energy retailers that supply both gas and electricity will try to convince you to move both utilities to them. Doing so may be more convenient. It may also be cheaper, sometimes. But…a cheap gas price does not automatically mean the electricity price will be the best available price as well.

Remember, the best price a retailer offers is not necessarily the best price from all retailers. Compare…and save.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 


Devil in the Wind – Black Saturday

I’m not a poetry person, at least not normally, but I’m sitting here crying as I read this poem by Frank Prem. It’s about the Black Saturday fires that claimed 173 lives here in Victoria. 

I was at home in Warrandyte that day. I’d sent the Offspring away, but I was at home with Dad and the animals because Dad had mild dementia and…I don’t think any of us really believed. I listened to 774 radio all day and some horrific reports were being phoned in, but we had the best roof sprinklers money could buy, and fire-resistant shutters. I was sure we’d be fine. And we didn’t really believe. 

The next day, the reports started coming in and finally, we believed. That’s the background. Here is the poem that’s brought me to tears.

evidence to the commission of enquiry: all in the ark for a while

well

you have to go back

to the chaos of that time

back to february

 

as the day got on

we realised we were in strife

because the thing was bigger and hotter

and faster and more unpredictable

 

it was more everything really

 

and we’d started to get word of huge losses

in other places around and about

people

property

animals

whole towns

 

so we were head-down-and-bum-up

and worried

about what was going to happen next

 

anyway

out of the smoke came a sort of convoy

led by a horse whose halter was held

by a woman driving a ute

 

in the back of the ute

a dog was running around

like a mad thing

 

after that came another car

with a float and two more horses

 

next was a vehicle that a police fellow

was driving

 

he’d been up in a chopper

trying to winch people out

but the wind got too big

so he dropped down and helped

by driving the car

with whoever he could get into it

 

then there were a couple of deer

that jumped out of the bush

when the cavalcade went past a clearing

 

and a pair of koalas

 

and three kangaroos

 

and some lizards

 

all running as part of the convoy

 

they scattered pretty quick

when the procession of them

emerged from the smoke

and the flames

but it was all in together

for a while

 

It was ‘all in together’ for a while after Black Saturday too. We grieved, and donated food, and money, and hay because the animals were starving, and because we were alive and so many were not.

The love has disappeared now, but for a while we had it and I thank Frank Prem for helping me remember. Parts of this post will become my review on Amazon because this is my memory of the devil-wind.

 


Bushfires in Australia – 2013

I had a small epiphany today, and it was this : when fire runs out of fuel, it stops.

Seems so obvious doesn’t it? That simple fact is behind the theory and practice of firebreaks and containment lines;  take away the fuel in the path of a fire and it will [eventually] stop. Yet despite the obviousness of this fact, we continue to talk about bushfires as if they’re malevolent demons out to get us, while completely ignoring the part we play in our own destruction.

A man died yesterday. I am not saying he was in any way to blame for what happened to him, but his remains were found in the burnt out wreck of his car. I can only assume he was trying to out run the Gippsland bushfire.

The death of this one, unidentified man is a horrific reminder of the 173 who died in the bushfires of Black Saturday. After those fires we had a Royal Commission that recommended all sorts of sensible, practical measures to ensure nothing like that happens again. Coincidentally, we also had a number of years of above average rainfall. That has had consequences.

After eleven years of drought, the rains following Black Saturday were sorely needed, however they triggered a sort of collective amnesia we could have done without. The Bushfires Royal Commission handed down its report, the State Government changed hands, and we all pushed the fear of bushfires onto the back burner. After all, it was raining for godsake!

In the years since Black Saturday, the CFA sounded warnings about how lots of rain also meant lots of new growth, new growth that would dry off over summer and burn, but we largely ignored the warnings, and the fuel load built up.

Now here we are, back in the middle of an unusually dry, hot summer, with bushfires raging in almost every state, and the worst of the fire season still to come [in February].

I look around my own small corner of Victoria and all I see is neglect, and an almost wilful optimism that ‘we’ won’t be affected. Some home-owners have done the right thing, but far too many haven’t. I guess they’re the ones who’ll  leave in a panic and get caught in the bottle-neck of the bridge.

I understand panic, and when we had that fire at Kangaroo Ground recently, I sent the Daughter off without realising that half of Warrandyte would be trying to do the same thing. She was caught in that bottleneck. That won’t happen again, not to her, but I shudder to think how many Warrandyte residents will do the same thing the next time, and pay the price.

Bushfires are incredibly complex phenomena, and no one thing is ever to blame, but there are a few simple facts that we must acknowledge :

– fires need fuel,

– people who do not clear their blocks provide fuel for fires,

– people who do not clear their blocks endanger their own lives because leaving may not be possible, or it may be more dangerous than staying,

– people who do not clear their blocks put all our lives at risk because fires do not stop at the fenceline.

– and Local Councils who budget the barest minimum for fire-mitigation works – because they refuse to acknowledge the part fuel plays in a bushfire –  are culpable and should be tried in a Court of Law for wilful manslaughter.

Too harsh?  Not harsh enough. We can’t change our climate. We can’t change lightning strikes, and we certainly can’t lock up every fire-bug in the country, but we can change attitudes… if we try hard enough, and if there are legal and financial consequences for failure.

I love living in Warrandyte but there are no free lunches here. All that beauty has to be paid for in vigilance and maintenance. Burying your head in the sand won’t save the rest of your body when the fires visit us again. And they will you know, because Warrandyte is a fire-prone area and we’re living on luck, not good management.


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